“Not even an inch.” This mantra, established immediately, oft-repeated throughout the reunion week-end. Emphatically, joyously, giggly—over and over. Marveling how crazy close we were to each other.  A vaccinated release from an entire year of no physical contact with my children and grandchildren.  After three glued days it still felt utterly strange, weirdly verboten.

Preview of coming attractions, eh?  This slow shift into shedding spatial and contact vigilance.  We are so in need, so ready, so yearning.  We know the beaucoup science around health benefits of touch.  We’re first hand experiencing our neurological wiring for connection. Where touch is deprived, humans cease to optimally thrive.  Not just physically and emotionally, but mentally, soulfully, spiritually.

It’s a weird coincidence how this year of touch taboo arrived on the heels of #MeToo. We were attuning to appropriate touch in new ways.  Feeling the cultural pendulum swing far enough to right years of wrong.  This unfolding drama abruptly closed for the pandemic season.  And because “so on the dance floor, so in life” this new perception of old behavior was playing out on practice floors around the globe, too.  Who knows if such hard won, freshly developed discernment will survive.

So when the door slammed shut a year ago, none of this went away.  Lack of touch and the longing it creates; graceful/awkward maintenance of physical distance; pandemic-enforced touch taboo concurrent with #MeToo sensibility—unfolds right before my eyes each and every Sunday in Sacramento.  Cuz somehow we’ve been moving together in that spacious garden through three full seasons now: summer, fall, winter.  The intrepid pioneers who initiated this miracle and do everything it takes to keep this practice alive are amazing. Courageous, inventive, respectful.

Now it is spring, things are slowly shifting. Participants are newly venturing out, some are emerging from the singular safety of Zoom, some are vaccinated, some are less than aware.  The territory is changing yet again and we just keep negotiating the unknown.  My partner Majica and I are charged with holding this sacred ever-evolving space. It is a responsibility we have not shouldered lightly.  And since health care delivery continues to be my highest calling, I’m grateful for CDC guidelines.  Especially now that this government organization appears to have re-joined the ranks of integrity.

It feels consummately clear that in a public setting, until we hear it is safe to do otherwise, we need to honor those CDC guidelines.  No matter if you’re sick to death of it, vaccinated, or just feeling rebellious we cannot touch each other out there.  The need to remain physically distant and/or masked is a communal imperative and demonstrates an embodied understanding that unless everyone wins, no one wins.  There are many among us unvaccinated and/or immune system challenged.  It is the wrong time to be selfish. It is the right time for us all to rise up together, as one.  And I cannot imagine a better practice setting for life than dancing out in that garden.

If we can keep the maturity bar high, I truly believe we’re offering some of the best specific medicine out there.  Health care that insures that, if not physically, we persist in connecting emotionally, mentally, soulfully, spiritually.  Strong in our communal desire for everyone to win. We’re practicing it on that dance floor every week.

Soon I’ll be considering how and where to have that first live communal Essentials class—just a one off for now.  But stay tuned.  No need to wait though.  That Zoom thing is established and awesome.  And we are in the introductory phase of feeling into the breathing benefits and subtle core toning available from an accurate practice of uddiyana bhandha.  If you are intrigued with the video below you might read about it in that highlighted link. I am loving how it feels in my body and I am starting to hear the same from you.  This week?  10:00am Thursday, Friday and/or Saturday.  The touch of the roller and the balls?  Not nearly as good as human touch…but an awesome massage just the same…and some of the best specific medicine out there.  Looking forward to that time when we can all be “not even an inch” and until then staying…

in service…Bella

LINKS to classes:https://bodyjoy.net/

Bhandha: a gesture in which a segment of the body is sealed, isolated or constricted in some manner.  Sanskrit for lock, bind, hold captive.  And why would a body want to do that?  Sounds like the undesirable opposite of release and freedom, doesn’t it?  Well, yes…but I find myself spiraling back around to this wisdom, another layer in subtle core toning.

Embodied personal investigation and research into the dual wisdom of physical therapy and hatha yoga—this is my preferred way to incorporate new stuff.  And though this spiraling journey has only recently begun, I’m taking Essential students along for the ride.  Our focus is the middle lock, uddiyana bhandha, translated as “to rise up, to fly.”  And when you feel it, you know why it is named this.  In physical therapy it is called hypopressive technique.  Whatever you want to call it, this unique physical contraction offers deep structural support to organs in the pelvis, abdomen and spine.  Check this schedule for Essential current offerings.
Deep Essentials
Friday March 19
10:00-11:30am

Basic Essentials
Thursday March 25
10:00-11:15am

Essential Recharge
Saturday March 27
10:00am-noon

Physical Therapy
(916) 267-5478 for appointment

Sunday Sweat Your Prayers
March 21
10:00-11:30am
Zoom or LIVE

Wednesday Waves
March 24
9:00am &/or 6:30pm

Dance Essentials
Saturday April 17
10:00-11:30am

This practice is all the rage in Europe right now—kinda like Pilates was—but the practice is ancient, timeless.  The Hatha Yoga Pradipikasays “of all the bhandhas, uddiyana is the best.  Once it is mastered, liberation occurs spontaneously…even an old person can become young when uddiyana bhandha is done regularly.”  My own road to mastery happened in kundalini yoga teacher training  2006, the full story is a different essay.  Suffice it to say that 18 months of 4:00-6:30 morning practice deeply embedded bhandhas in my being.   All this history tumbled back over me as I incorporated uddiyana into my current practice.  The deep structural support I feel kicking in is a pleasant surprise since I’ve been so subtle core tone focused since 2015.  I consider myself already pretty strong and this practice, without being all boot-campy, takes it to the next level.

The benefits of regular uddiyana bhandha practice are wide-ranging and super-attractive: improved breath efficiency and capacity, increased core strength, enhanced digestion, improved circulation to the brain and organ body, calming of the nervous system.  Physical therapy utilizes it to treat pelvic floor issues for both men’s and women’s health.  The energetic benefits are a whole other story.  But, since it is practiced with breath retention, in that potent pause of prana flow, there is cessation of thought.  It is a meditation booster for sure.

A sensation is worth a thousand words.  Wanna feel a light uddiyana bhandha?  Seated right there, take a full inhale, especially invite lower rib cage to expand.  As you exhale, gently place palm over mouth and nostrils. Completely relax through torso until every last bit of breath exits.  Now attempt the physical motion of inhale even though you’ve tightly covered the entrance for breath.  No breath comes in.  Feel the flare of lower rib cage, the vacuum you’ve created in chest cavity.  The way organs are being compressed and diaphragm is being stretched horizontally.  When it’s time to inhale breath (don’t push the length of breath holding!), first release the lock, then release your hand, then gently breathe in through pursed lips like sucking on a straw.   Allow a few normal breaths.  Notice the agni/fire you have created in the belly.  After the block there is unblock and the prana flows more freely.  Enjoy the sensation.

We’re slowly building this hypopressive/uddiyana bhandha practice in Essentials.  You can join us any Thursday or Friday morning.  Essential Recharge, Saturday March 27 will include a solid introduction to this practice.  Of course we loosen up the whole body first, including a delicious belly massage before this particular part of the practice.  And it is awesome to feel this fired up core contributing to simple asana practice before we stretch out and rest in shivasana.

Can you feel the parallel out in our altered world?  It’s like the world prana has been sealed, isolated, constricted for a year.  Can you feel the sense of easing, the return of communal life force? There is block…and there is unblock.  What a beautiful time for Spring to arrive.  Surprisingly, I continue to love teaching all this on-line.  Students love the ease of Zoom at home and want me to stay there.  I can imagine that.  And I also imagine a local in person practice session being born as well.  I miss being with you, being together, seeing you in practice, offering touch and instruction based on what is happening in current time.   I’m fully vaccinated so starting March 22 I open my studio for one-on-one physical therapy sessions.  Ready for hands on help with that physical challenge?  I can’t wait to feel you on my treatment table—albeit with masks.

Nothing like Rumi to sum it all up:

“There is one way of breathing that is shameful and constricted.
Then there’s another way:
a breath of love that takes you all the way to infinity.”

Locked.  Bound.  Held captive.  I feel like we have learned so much from a year of bhandha.  Feeling this quality—and its release—in the breath, in the body…it can take us all the way to infinity.  Let’s go there together.

❤️Bella

By and by the events that pepper our days fall into place.  Our minds, hungry to create meaning, chew on personal stories.  Eventually interpretation breeds perspective.  Which the dictionary defines as the “true understanding of the relative importance of things.”  Sometimes that perspective awakens in a flash.  Which is what happened to me last Thursday.

Minding my own business, doing that Zoom dance thing up in my studio, guided by a Montreal teacher I adore.  Zoom dance, an animal with which I maintain a love-hate relationship.  I’ve learned more about my distraction patterns than I ever wanted to know this past year.  But something clicked that morning.  A kinesthetic memory stirred by the pure joy of my body in fluid motion, a fleshed out perspective of 2019.  2020 had clouded that memory, never allowed it to even fully emerge.

2019: a year that began in the worst of health—post-surgical, a month of radiation, unrelenting bronchitis that morphed into 15 days of unexplained fever.  I was one sick puppy.  I danced on and off through it all.  The loving care of an integrative medicine doc combined with my indefatigable spirit teamed up for healing that commenced mid-April.  I kept dancing.  By summer, feeling good felt brand new, amazing, vital. My dance was taking new form, a springy lightness that had never been there before.

Through the balance of 2019, in closing circle after closing circle, I listened to participants share their dance floor experiences: deep meditation, break through insights, personal transformation.  Variations on all the revelatory truths I had occasionally shared and witnessed in others for twenty years. I intimately knew the territory since my own practice of corralling attention to body, breath, mind often (not always!) yielded juicy personal insight or deep drops into the mystery.

I silently listened during most of these 2019 closing circles.  At the end of each practice I was empty in a way I had never felt before.  Week after week I was dancing two hours of unadulterated joy in motion.  My whole body grinning.  Extreme pleasure was the summation of my experience.  Each and every precious time.  I did not know how precious, even during the last dance at Clara March 11, 2020.

The events of 2020 completely wiped out that barely born experience that was revived Thursday.  Pleasure, foreign yet familiar, felt like it was missing in action, like a long lost friend.  I began to suspect I was not alone in this rusty relationship.  That the events of this long year have placed pleasure on our collective back burner.  On Sunday I invited us to feel how easy it is to be flesh and bone, the simple miracle of an arm winging through space, moving with the space around us as if it were a lover.  Music that allowed the beat to have it’s way with us, a beat we could feel deep and close to our bodies.  The pleasure of release, the savor of surrender.   From the group field response, I gauged I was not alone in this longing.

And so, dear reader, an inquiry.  Your own investigation.  So what’s your  pleasure?  Is it on the back burner?  What would it take to bring it to the front burner for a bit? So curious about us.  What has gone dormant during this collective trauma?  How can the classes I offer be in service to explore, to nourish, to awaken?

Well, the opportunities are all on line for you.  I was actually gonna write about immigration this week, how unless we’re North American native, we’re all immigrants.  How one hundred years ago my grandparents were immigrants.  These thoughts spurned by St. Patrick’s Day and how the Irish were immigrants.  The inspiration for this month’s fundraiser, Dance Essentials, donating all proceeds to the Sacramento chapter of International Rescue Committee  .

Well, so be it.  I had to write about pleasure.   And you can bet there will be a whole lot of pleasure in store for you on Saturday morning as we roll and release kinks, feel the beat deep and close to our dancing bodies and then, like cats in the sun, stretch long.  Plus, the pleasure that comes knowing that 100% of your tuition is helping an immigrant put healthy roots in our community.  Can’t make it Saturday morning?  Just send me your receipt of donation  and I’ll send you the recording.

It’s been a pleasure….love, Bella

A year ago today I matched each rise and fall of my breath with my father’s.  I didn’t know his breath would end the next day.  We never know exactly, do we?  Yet even as I remained bed side attentive, I was aware of fear and restlessness, a longing to know woven with denial, this wondering how long side by side with the wonder.

Within a week of his passage, wrestling with the emotional buffet grief delivers, surrendered to sorrow, a universal version of this feeling state was arising on the heels of the emerging Covid-19 reality. Laced as it was with each of our unique cocktails of inertia and resistance and denial and fright.  It did not stop Spring from arriving: tender grass shoots, buds promise-full, my fingernails creased with dirt wet from nesting seedlings.  What universal good fortune to feel earthly new beginnings, life a-sprout as we daily digested so much strange and dire news. Little did we know this was the beginning of a whole year.  Care to dance into a sense of that fullness on Wednesday or Sunday?

I’m remembering those Spring days tinged with the innocence of the east.  The east?  Why the east? I’ve been deeply rooted in the energetic qualities of cardinal directions for a long time.  My indoctrination is Native American, though cultures around the world have their versions. I’m willing to stand accused of cultural appropriation because I feel this deeply in my bones; there must be an Eastern European version.  Some day!  This year I’m monthly new moon reading Jamie Sams’ The 13 Original Clan Mothers.  Sams delves into Native American grandmother lore.  It mesmerizes me.   East?  In Native American lore, east signifies Spring and birth and new beginnings.  After sensing east, we cycle south to summer, to the innocence of childhood growth.

Last year, in the Northern hemisphere, as spring gave way to summer, we were witness to raging heat shimmering off protest-filled pavements.  Memorial Day slid into July 4th.  For the first time, we gut-felt what a spike was.  Little did we know these were small harbingers of spikes to come.  Summer: time for seeds to set fruit and for children to grow faith and trust and humility.  A period when, according to the Native American crones, we ripen into the primary lesson of childhood: that unless everyone wins, no one wins.  We began to wear masks.  We began to think in terms of months, not weeks.  Grateful for isolated moments of faith or trust.

As we turned west, US elections and wildfires raging, Autumn blew us away with crestingThanksgiving and Christmas spikes.  And even though there was promise of a new administration and expectation of vaccination, it felt risky to even hope.  Faith and trust were all we had.  We turn to the grandmothers again, they tell us Autumn is when dreams are born.  Dreams that will manifest only when we learn to honor the equality of all life forms.  Truly this is when many of us understood that individual dreams and desires don’t manifest in a bubble of alone-ness.   This lesson of inter-dependence has never been more palpable.  The season that began in such chaos turned into utter surrender to that “only one of us here” reality.  Every day another practice in being with what is.

As winter dawned, as the world in unison turned north, those of us lucky enough to have lived through to this point in the cycle, each in our own way…perhaps much the wiser through this life experience.  Or not.  Bring on an insurrection just in case we have not felt enough.  The grandmothers say that in winter we are heart to heart, soul to soul, face to face with eternity.   If we are paying attention to the moldering leaves, the silt pouring from river to sea, the big and little deaths peppering each day…then we know damn sure change is a constant, everything cycles.

Astoundingly, nothing is lost as it/as we continue this journey throughout time.  Every time we welcome winter at our door, every time we are witness to transformation, we step closer to wholeness.  Perhaps our spirits live forever.  Is there any doubt that we are all part of this great mystery?  A full year now. With this under our belts, I feel us taking tentative steps forward into the loom of Spring.  Perhaps a bit wiser.  The fear and restlessness, this longing to know woven with denial, this wondering how long, this wonder…still here.

We never know exactly, do we?  But a couple years ago, when we had conversations about acceptance and peace and hope we did not have the wisdom this year bestowed.  Now each of us, in our distinct way, have matriculated to maybe a fuller possibility.  Did we want this?  Need this?  Ask for this?  Don’t know exactly.  Do know this:  I’m on the journey, you’re on the journey, we’re all on the journey from here to eternity.  It’s more do-able together.  ❤️Bella

Ever had shoulder pain?  No???  You are lucky and very unusual.  I totally remember my first bout.  Scooping really hard ice cream at a school fundraiser, this giant container of vanilla, the table way too high for a short gal like me.  Feel that?  But I was fine doling it out for a couple hours.  It wasn’t until the next day I noticed a dull ache about three inches south of the shoulder joint.  Classic.  And so began my personal introduction to rotator cuff dysfunction.

Way different than learning about it in a textbook, for sure.  But that’s how it’s been in my lifetime. I am the living result of a very active existence moving with a multitude of illuminating misfortunes.  A recipient of the inside story on body aches and challenges.  Ranging from the annoying to the severe.  Low back and hip and neck pain, nerve impingement, foot and knee difficulties, tennis elbow, ankle sprain, patellar fracture, scoliosis, forearm/thumb irritation.  Don’t get me started.

My rotator cuff chapter lasted on and off for a decade. In fact, the somatic memory of it is still with me, awakened because I’ve comfort-inducing-slept on my right side too much lately.  I did not learn what I needed to know about the necessary rehab and management from books or, sad to say, going for physical therapy.  There is such an emphasis in current clinical practice on strengthening and range of motion.  The ubiquitous “fingers up the wall” and the predictable tubing external rotation is still the all too common prescription.  A treatment that can actually be extremely irritating.  I’m sorry if this sounds familiar to you.

On my own, I waded through deep study of the anatomical mechanics and ongoing trial and error and observation.  I kept my sights on what was tight and needing release. I experimented my way to creating subtle stability, gained proficiency in shoulder taping. I had a couple cortisone injections.  Only then, gradually and respectfully, could strength and range of motion be added in.  My healing scenario of three steps forward and two steps back was the same frustrating roller coaster I coach every one else through.

Combine the shoulder’s amazing range of movement, the demands we continually place on it  and the delicate way it is pieced together…well, it’s amazing it functions well at all.   If you are super-curious, this video will answer all your geeky questions about the mechanics of the fascinating shoulder complex.

In Thursday and Friday Essentials this week we play in this deep shoulder field.  We always start with a little slide show of the territory.  The imagination is so powerful in healing.  We release the entire spine, shoulder blades, legs and organ body and then dive into creating subtle core stability.  Warrior 2 will be the perfect simple pose to feel the way the rotator cuff gently cinches the ball of the humerus into the shallow socket of the scapula.  To feel the way the gentle cinching is supported by the release and stability we have awakened in our earlier practice.  We’ve added the use of blocks and access to a wall to our practice.  Don’t have yet?  I always offer alternatives.

On Saturday, in once a month Essential Recharge we coast through the territory covered in February.  Feel the heart basket in its entirety: thoracic vertebrae, ribs and sternum, heart and lungs and diaphragm, the deep musculature that creates movement.  Recharge is for you if you’ve never experienced Essentials.  And it’s totally for you if you want a luxurious slow ride through how to be loose, long and strong.

My second vaccine is this Sunday.  Which means I will finally be available for in person physical therapy visits in my East Sac studio.  Transmission is still an open question, so unless you have been vaccinated, double masking for both of us will be required.  I will continue on Zoom probably as long as I remain in practice.  It has been amazing to see many of you beyond the bounds of my local geography.  It has limitations that the advantages far outweigh.

The shoulders…we can sometimes feel as if we carry the weight of the world there.  It’s been said that it’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it. True that.  Let’s learn to carry with ease…❤️Bella

Valentine’s Day dawned overcast and cold and damp.  No matter.  Because since June, every Sunday morning, you’ll find me outside on farmland bordering the Sacramento River.  Music radiates from my trusty old Mackies and a hardy group spreads out all over the property to dance.  We have now moved through three seasons together, missing only four Sundays due to rain, smoke, extreme heat.

I sat by the fire on Valentine’s Day and thought of the morning ahead.  I had some music pulled but my heart felt foggy as my window view.  What was this day about…really?  What measly words could serve as inspiration in such dark times?  And what’s love got to do with it?  My meandering mind pivoted to the previous night and the cat Zoom phenomena:

I was cast by the spell of this ridiculousness Saturday night.  Played it five times over.  Ended up in a floor heap, out of control laughter and tears.  What was that about?  Why did this video go viral?  Right now?  Why are people multiple watching and sharing?  What deep longing does it evoke?  Then it registered: in these estranged times, when solitude can overwhelm, this crazy video connects us.  Laughter connects us.  Tears connect us.

Feeling connects us.  Everybody knows frustration and worry.  Each and every one of us experience moments of gutsy courage.  We get pissed off and we forgive. We have moments of tenderness.  We know how it aches to care.  To be cared about.  You get my drift.  When we climb inside our own vulnerability, when we sense that everybody feels, we touch our common humanity.  We remember we are not alone.

And there is certain comfort in that.  Every time we laugh at the cat filter saying “I am not a cat” we re-connect with each other.  And here’s the thing.  I may not spontaneously trust that connection to another, someone unknown, someone seemingly different.  Gender, age, politics, color, economic status.  All these qualities of human being that superficially separate us.  But everybody laughs.  Everybody cries.

Separation is a lens we choose.  When I remember that you also laugh, when I imagine your tears, I soften and open and the yawning expanse between us fills with possibility.  With a merciful lens, the space between us morphs into a bridge.  A bridge we can learn to navigate, to negotiate.  To maybe even cross over.  Each step buoyed by remembering that we all laugh…and we all cry.

We danced open our hearts and eyes, felt into that bridge Sunday morning…on Zoom, in the garden.  And this was the one-class-a-month fundraiser, all proceeds donated to a local cause.  The river property we’ve been moving on is slated to undergo big levee reconstruction changes.  This community raised $950 for tree restoration.  Wow.  I am in a state of stunned gratitude.  Thank you.

Any community practice, whether on line or live, puts us squarely in the presence of that bridge.  We can choose to ignore that.  Eyes closed, in the comfort of our familiar skin bag.  Now we can even turn off our video.  There are times that is exactly what we need.

But we can also open our eyes, be curious, track our desire to hide out, reach out, space out.  Tap the universal sensation of vulnerability.  Trust the space between, knowing we all feel variations on this thread.  What’s love got to do with it?  Writer Sue Jaye Johnson in telling a story of my fellow teacher Peter Fodera said, “Life is not a spectator sport.  To know love, you first have to be present for it.”   That presence begins on the bridge.

I have a hankering to create some bridges in the alternative Zoom universe this Wednesday.  Johnson also said “You can’t get to love by reading about it or studying it.  You have to throw yourself in the pool.”  Throw yourself in the pool, take a walk on a bridge…plenty of opportunity this week.  Come feel. ❤️Bella

All links to these sessions:

Wednesday Waves
February 17
9:00am &/or 6:30pm

Basic Essentials
Thursday February 18
10:00-11:15am

Deep Essentials
Friday February 19
10:00-11:30am

Physical Therapy
(916) 267-5478 for appointment

Sunday Sweat Your Prayers
February 21 10:00-11:30am
Zoom in your home
Live in the garden

Dance Essentials
Saturday March 13
10:00-11:30am

Essential Recharge
Saturday January 30
10:00am-noon

I’m old enough to remember the 1955 polio outbreak, the long lines of kids waiting for their vaccine sugar cube.  I can only imagine my parent’s fear. But they had already lived thru scarlet fever, mumps, diptheria, whooping cough.  They had already lost friends and family and felt gratitude for the science behind vaccine.  We’ve all been enjoying a human experience relatively devoid of survival-based fear, which has been part of the human story since we peeked our heads out of the cave.  Perhaps we’ve become pleasantly soft.  What an under-appreciated gift this chapter of softness was.  Now we’re smack dab in the reality of what it has meant to be human for eons.  Everything repeats.  Nothing is certain.  Everything changes.

Take a look at this week’s sessions.  Being embodied is one way to support a challenged immune system.  And learn to be with change.  Links HERE

Wednesday Waves
Feb 10   9:00am & 6:30pm

Basic Essentials
Thursday Feb 11   10:00-11:30am

Deep Essentials
Friday Feb 12     10:00-11:30am

Dance Essentials
Saturday Feb 13   10:00-11:30am

Sunday Sweat Your Prayers FUNDRAISER
Valentine’s Day Feb 14 10:00-11:30am
Zoom in your home
Live in the garden

Essential Recharge
Saturday Feb 27   10:00am-noon

Physical Therapy
(916) 267-5478 for appointment

Reporting from the vaccine front line here, first injection doing magic more than a week now.  Local soreness has dissipated and there is this other-worldy fluctuating lassitude. Chalk it up to the relentless emotional and mental suffering we are all riding?  Maybe.  Almost a year, folks.   Really though…what is my body up to?  How is it building a viral defense wall?  Since most of us will eventually end up waging this internal battle and because I’m a certified science geek, I’m gonna break it down here.

The new buzz technology with this vaccine is messenger RNA.  MRNA is already found in human cells, genetic material our bodies use to produce protein.  Both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use a synthetic mRNA.  True to it’s messenger calling, it instructs the body’s own cells to create a coronavirus protein called spike.  Our intelligent bodies recognize spike as an invader and mobilize antibody forces against it.  Here’s the magic: if these same antibodies encounter COVID-19 later, they recognize and remember.  And then they whip into action to destroy it before it can cause illness.

To make sure mRNA slides easily into cells, they’re greasy bubble coated with lipid nanoparticles. These weird bubbles alert the fast-acting immune cells which are on constant look out for foreign matter. Once the immune cells spot the greasy bubbles, they sound the alarm with cytokines.  The cytokine commanders recruit other immune cells directly to the injection site.  A swollen sore arm is sign #1 your body is doing exactly what you want it to do.

A healthy immune system is a quick but not very long-lived first responder. It sputters out a couple days post-injection.  But not before it passes the baton to the adaptive immune system.  This network creates antibodies for the long run.  These soldiers stay on the alert, ready to attack if Covid-19 enters the body again. This system needs a few days to study the spike and get ready. By the time the second injection happens, it’s totally amped up, itching for a fight, ready to react way faster.  Check out this incredible intelligence—some of the soldier cells are suspicious and hang out at the injection site, waiting for the invader’s return to the scene of the crime.

And when that second injection arrives, our brilliant immune system remembers and takes it even more seriously this time around.  Our body’s reaction to dose #2 varies greatly but can be flu-like—fever, aches, chills, exhaustion, the works.  Side effects are usually short-lived and pale in comparison to the real deal.  Remember COVID-19 can be utterly debilitating.  Just as alarming as the 2 million deaths is the sometimes months-long, sometimes unresolved ongoing constellation of hanger-on symptoms.

Fear of side effects is not a good reason to forgo the vaccine.  Injection side effects insure us our immune system is activating, though some will feel no side effects at all.  Rest assured…body still working!  We are each so unique in our response.  Nevertheless, first shot stimulates immunity, second one reminds the system the threat is big time.  Let’s the body know in no uncertain terms this peril will require the strongest immune soldiers for any upcoming battle.

Given this incredible internal deployment, it’s no wonder I’m a bit tired sometimes.  My body is hard at work ensuring my future safety.  Grateful it can just do it’s thing and continue to support me in doing mine.  Short video describes the heart-based sessions that span this week, culminating in Valentine’s Day Sweat Your Prayer’s fundraiser on Sunday.  Give your precious body what it needs and come practice with me if you’re able.
❤️Bella

Fifty years ago I kept a 20 week standing date with a cadaver.  Without fail.  Every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, eight to noon, scalpel in hand, trusty Gray’s Anatomy propped at my side. My original oft-referenced fifty year old text pictured above.  Me and three intrepid lab partners dived in, layer by amazing layer.  For sure squeamish-get-me-outta-here on Day One…but then curiosity took the reins.  One day all the organs were stealthily removed for the pathology students and on another day the head disappeared, gone in service to dental students.  This absence didn’t faze us; our focus was laser-directed on muscle, bone, tendon, joint, ligament, nerve.  Plenty remained. If you want to consider moving from squeamish to curious check out YouTube anatomist Gil Headley splaying open the heart basket below.  He’s quite the character.

And so began a life-long love affair with this particular aspect of anatomy, a surrender to a working bias for many years.  Thirty years to be exact.  A good chunk of time to steep, long enough to start making connections, drawing meaning from the physical. What does my body know about spirit?  What is the sensation of a feeling arising?  Where exactly do thoughts originate and translate to action?  Where lives the voice of my soul?  The last twenty years have been all about that.

From time to time I love to dive into the organ body those pathology students absconded with.  It fascinates me.  Last week was one of those times, an exploration from diaphragm to pelvic floor.  Heart and lungs will have their turn soon.  Here’s what I notice: when we bring our attention to organ body we invite the parasympathetic nervous system to thrive.  The sympathetic—in charge of adrenaline-based fight flight freeze—quiets.  Focus on the organ body naturally moves us into a field of rest and restore.

Wanna feel?  Take a full inhale and exhale in honor of each organ: left thumb resting under rib cage, hand covering stomach. Under stomach the worm of pancreas. Right hand, same place, other side, overlapping left—liver is way bigger.  Let hands stroke downward over 22 feet of small intestine taking space all the way to pubic bone.  Stroke outward and rest over ascending and descending colon.  Make two fists as you move them under last rib back body; two kidneys. Now one hand sacrum, other pubic bone.  Rectum rests curled in front of sacrum, bladder nests under pubic bone, womb space reclines in between—the sacred protected lineup.  Rest here.  Breathe.  Summon up gratitude.  Restore.

As fate would have it, in the midst of this series of classes, I listened to a Katherine May podcast on how “wintering” replenishes.  We are deep in wintering right now.  Maybe the deepest wintering many of us have ever experienced.  Darkness, rain, cold…it gets under my skin sometimes, feels limiting, depressing, leaves me longing for “summering”.  Yet now is when we might follow the lead of rest and restore body wisdom.  How do we take in nourishment, gather up what is needed to sustain life, digest?  And then what do we do with that?  Our miracle vessels know how to convert that nourishment.  How to assimilate, incorporate, utilize—create life force.  And then?  Hah.  The body innately knows what and how to eliminate. Release what it does not need.  24/7.  Over and over.

Katherine May went on to expound on the power of rest and retreat to remind us that our lives are deeply cyclical.  That everything repeats.  That nothing lasts.  Wintering asks us to wonder what change is coming…  because it always does.

Take a deep breath in.  Open the window between your rib cage and your pelvis.  Feel the deeply cyclical nature of your organ body as it gathers, creates and eliminates.  Take a rest.  February 5 is the exact middle of winter.  We will be Springing in six or seven weeks.  Here are a few ways to support your February wintering….
 
On the mat: 
Essentials Thursday/ Friday 10:00am moves into heart basket.  All month feeling the unique thoracic spine, how ribs connect it with breast bone. How collar bone delicately marries scapula.  The fluid scapula hovering on back body.  How  diaphragm and lungs and heart team up for aliveness.  Loving our journey.  Until February 5 you can pre-enroll in all February Thursdays or Fridays to save $, commit and have the ease of a single Zoom link.
Dance Essentials Saturday February 13 —combining mat and dance floor. For sure we’ll be dancing that heart basket somehow.
Essential Recharge Saturday February 27 will summarize, integrate, culminate this heart basket journey.

On the dance floor: 
Wednesday Waves 9:00am and 6:30pm…either or both—same link. Loving this one hour double dip whether I teach or take.
Sweat Your Prayers Zoom or live in the garden every Sunday 10:00am.  This month’s fundraiser is Valentine’s Day Sunday February 14.  All proceeds, Zoom and live in the garden, go right back to the farm land we’ve been moving on since June.   Deep gratitude to Ray and Judy Tretheway who have generously offered space where we have been able to safely move outdoors through three seasons. All proceeds will help replace trees being removed for levee restoration.  Wanna join us?  Eventbrite ticket purchase holds our capacity upper limit at a very safe thirty.

Bottom line?  Here’s what we’re up to wherever, whenever you land.  Dedicated time to take in some nourishment.  Feel how it supports and generates creative life force.  Lighten your load, release what’s superfluous.

Let’s keep wintering together.
❤️Bella

Gil Headley and the heart basket…..https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rY_7-UgM3Mw

I’m totally indifferent to any debate about science validity.  For me, it’s a given.  Neil Tyson said, “The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe it.” Totally resonate.  Given the fact that science just is, what intrigues me is it’s intersection with the sacred.  The co-mingle of science and magic.   The marriage of science and art.

Perhaps this possibility, this mysterious sense of magic, paved the way for politically-motivated individuals to cast this recent science-doubt-spell.  In this time of critical national need, when the very best public health can offer is desperately required, so alarming to feel the practice of medicine compromised.  It was heartening this week to hear Dr. Fauci, longtime head of NIH, address the dangerous partisan games played at the upper levels of CDC.  Shocking.

Religion is a culture of faith.
Science is a culture of doubt.
Richard Feyman, physicist

Science is born of a fertile imagination, from the depths of mystery. Curiosity hypothesizes.  Comfort with the unknown is the first step to evidence-based research and treatment. I grew up steeped in this fusion of the known and the unknown, literally dancing my way through childhood in the home of a scientist father.  Who also loved to dance, by the way.  My fluid body in motion has always been my preferred artistic way of being in the mystery.  But science knocked on my little girl door via the written word and I fell headlong into the medicine world of Clara Barton, nurse.

The life sciences and healing took hold of my mystic moving body and disciplined me. Kept asking me to meld matter and spirit. Find ways to negotiate between reason and intuition.  Look for common ground between logic and wonder, determination and destiny.  I’m still at it.

Medicine is a fusion field.  Many patients expect or would like it to be pure science-based.  Some practitioners pretend that it is.  Case in point: this week I treated a patient in Chicago with recent onset heel pain.  Yes, I’m still working on Zoom, vaccination end of this week!  It was science that taught me the route of the sciatic nerve, how to stress it, how to hypothesize heel pain originating in spine.  But it was artistic intuition guiding me to create ways to release the hold this neural tension had on her body and spirit.  Science teaches me about the inner workings of body.  It is the ground my work rests upon.  But facts and data will never be enough to shape the warm fertile field in which healing happens.

Inviting you to be in that warm fertile field 10:00am this week: Thursday, Friday or Saturday. What’s the diff  ‘tween Thursday’s Basic and Friday’s Deep Essentials? We always roll and release, power tone and stretch.  They’re interchangeable.  Deep is 15 extra minutes, time for a bit more classic yoga asana.  Saturday’s Essential Recharge is two hours, once a month for students who want to deepen and new students who want introduction.  This week the science guides us through the organ body, the vital biological structures that keep us ticking. And the magic happens when we feel the energetic space between heart basket and pelvic bowl, stay present with our breath and welcome insights that percolate through our soul and enliven our spirit.

Closing with Albert Einstein, wizard of magical science, who said: Science without religion is lame.  Religion without science is blind.
 
Loving being in the mystery with you….bella

My children, constant source of inspiration and wonder to me.  I feel them so deeply, mid-life stream, transforming through adulthood’s unrelenting lessons. Juggling more than we prepared them for, showing a maturity of utter grace, ever-thoughtful skill and consideration.  This pandemic year has crystallized a slow change in our relationship.  The children they were always palpable beneath these astounding adults.  The parents we were a fading memory overlaid by the elders we have become.  Who worries more about whom is now a toss up.

My daughter’s work world has given her a much needed voice in this rapidly changing globe. And she is my guest author today, writing about a neighbor our family endured for twenty years.  Last week an avalanche of text messaging between the four of us unearthed all these buried stories…and then some.  I could have written my own version The White Supremacist Next Door, but why?  Sonya Dreizler tells this timely story so well:

“I grew up next door to a violent white supremacist, who regularly threatened my family. When I was a kid, he was just the scary, mean neighbor. And, as often happens with childhood experiences, they seem normal without the context of more years of life experiences.

I also didn’t have the language to call him a white supremacist, or even know what that was. We didn’t talk much about race in my house. We had friends of other races and ethnicities but – as was pretty common in the eighties and nineties- our house took a “colorblind” approach to (not) talking about race. And we definitely didn’t talk about whiteness, white supremacy, or broader issues of racial justice- though my parents are fluent in all of that now.

That is all to say I did not have the context to know then that the sum of his actions and talk would clearly point to him being a white supremacist. I don’t want to name him here so let’s just call him Mr. Davis for the purposes of this article.

*Mr. Davis used a CB radio, and his communications would sometimes  interrupt my boombox radio. His call name on that CB radio was a racist and offensive white supremacist slur, that I do not want to name in this article.
*He made sure we knew (or at least believed) that he kept guns by the front door.
*When my brother and I played in our front yard, Mr. Davis would spray us with a hose if we neared the invisible property line where our lawn met his.
*He’d hose our cats too. Our older, wiser cat knew this and stayed away.
*But when our kitten went missing, while my brother and I made “missing” posters, my dad braved knocking on Mr. Davis’s door and when he did, he found the neighbor had kidnapped our kitten, for “trespassing on his property.” He had her caged in a small hamster cage.
*Mr. Davis would flip us the bird every single time he drove by, which was a lot, since we lived next door.
*If my brother and I were playing with a ball in our back yard, and it went over the fence, we knew we’d never get to play with that ball again. Mr. Davis would slice the ball down the middle before throwing it back over. Sometimes, when he was being extra menacing, he would draw a bleeding cat’s face on the ball, then slice it, then throw it back to our yard. I still remember the drawings vividly, despite the 20+ years since I’ve seen one.
*He would video tape my brother and dad playing catch in the street.
*He called the police to report my brother skateboarding on our block.
*When we got a cordless phone he would eavesdrop on our conversations, and sometimes chime in with crude remarks. He stopped when my dad said he would report him to the FCC.

Why did he threaten our family? I think it was because he disagreed with my parents’ vocal anti-war views. But maybe being a Jewish family was also a contributing factor. I am left to wonder- if he could be that horrible to our family, his white next-door neighbors, how terrible were his interactions with people of color? I’ll never know the answer.

Because I was a kid without context, he was just the scary neighbor. I knew he found ways to make us scared, including inside of our own home. What I now know, and didn’t realize until just last week, was that he fit into a larger group of people that insisted on their supposed racial superiority, and that menacing behavior often comes with that territory.

Mr. Davis died 20+ years ago. I hadn’t given him much thought in recent years. But last week, in the aftermath of the mob storming the capitol, something I read jogged my brain and I could almost feel the memories and stories tumble out, ready for inspection under the context I now have. For the last 9 years I’ve been actively engaged in unlearning what I thought I knew about race in America, and relearning more accurate narratives, as well as learning to speak out on the topic of racial injustice. Now I have the context and the language to call my neighbor what he was- a violent, threatening, white supremacist.

With that context, now I’m left to wonder- how did that experience impact me, my childhood, my adulthood, and the work I do now?

*Despite the decades that have passed, I still won’t go near his lawn when I visit my parents’ house.
I don’t let my kids walk on other people’s lawns, anywhere.
*In my current home, even though we are friendly with the neighbors whose back yards connect to ours, I still get nervous when my own kids’ toys go over the fence.

Racism and sexism are about power and control. When I write and speak on those topics, I often draw on my own experiences with white men exerting their power. I never considered the awful interactions with Mr. Davis to be among those experiences, but now that I think about it, I imagine those formative years must have had a tremendous impact, one I can’t quite articulate yet.

I’m searching for the lesson here, but I haven’t found it yet. Usually writing is a clarifying exercise for me. When these memories came back to me, I felt so compelled to *write this down* so I could make sense of it. But I’m afraid there’s no sense to be had, no finding reason from the actions of someone so cruel.

Perhaps there are lessons for finance from the national political upheaval. Lessons about naming and examining whiteness and power issues. Lessons about whether we can “move on” from harassment, assault or discrimination in the workplace without the healing that comes with attempts at justice. In my own experiences, and collecting stories for Do Better, I saw a pattern that in instances of conflict in the finance workplace, there is a rush to smooth things over by silencing the victim (including with NDAs and arbitration agreements) and pacifying the aggressor. While moving on from the event may give the temporary appearance that things are back to normal, what it actually does is enable the aggressor to continue abusing other people, at the long term detriment to your workforce and business reputation.

In respect to what is happening nationally, with white supremacy invading our capitol- I hope our country can focus on justice and accountability for those people that stormed the capitol, and those who enabled and encouraged them to do so. Without accountability, the rest of us- the ones not committing violent seditious acts- live in fear of a fresh wave of violence.

May we seek safety, and justice in all of our systems – including our workplaces – and continue to listen to the voices of those people our systems have historically excluded. Not just “for the next generation.” Let’s do it now.”

Thank you, Sonya.
Grateful, humble mama